Living as a couple can be extremely rewarding. However, love and relationships are also a bit complex, and it is likely that on several occasions things will not work out and the relationship will eventually end.
The end of a relationship is something that usually generates a lot of pain and sadness, to the point that often times people say they have depression as a result of the breakup. But, while the experience is obviously not (usually) rewarding and it is common for there to be similar symptoms … is there really depression? Why is it generally regarded as such? Can depression occur for this reason? How to try to fight it? Let’s take a look at it throughout this article.
Before going into the evaluation of the possible emotional reactions that can occur after having undergone a romantic break-up, we must first comment on what we are talking about when we talk about depression. This is necessary, since normative reactions or even moods in which sadness abounds are often mistaken for depression but do not meet the criteria to become true depression.
This is called major depression one of the most common and widespread mental disorders in the world, Which is characterized by the presence of a sad mood and / or a lack of ability to perceive gratification or pleasure, even activities that previously excited us.
In addition to these symptoms, the presence of a fort is common despair in the face of the future, guilt and uselessness (They can even become delusional), extreme passivity, tendency to isolation, sleep problems, loss of appetite and weight, loss of energy and fatigue, physical and mental sluggishness, problems concentrating, restlessness and thoughts death and suicide.
These symptoms, and especially the first two, are present for most of the day almost every day for at least two weeks and there can be no addiction or other disorders such as the presence of psychotic problems.
Some of these symptoms can occur in response to specific situations, particularly sadness, problems concentrating or losing weight, hunger, and sleep. But as a rule, they are not considered part of a major depression. unless they exceed the normal reaction by the loss it causes, In this case, the end of the relationship.
Depression due to emotional breakdown
There is no doubt that a romantic breakup is an experience that can be painful and even traumatic depending on the circumstances surrounding it. Especially if it is not by mutual agreement and one of them wants to continue the relationship. And while in general the situation is very painful for the person who stays, it can also be difficult for the person who leaves. In most cases, this generates great sadness, suffering and doubts, as well as a loss of desire to do things and an increased tendency to isolate oneself.
Now keep this in mind there is no “rupture depression” as a diagnostic label. In fact, while there are depressions that react to certain events and a breakup can become a trigger for major depression, in most cases we are going through a grieving process.
In other words, that is to say we are mainly dealing with something normal and not pathological, As we have just suffered the loss of something on which we had hitherto relied and which was in principle important to us. And this grieving can take a long process to come to the acceptance of this rupture, in which you can go through different phases.
In this sense, it is common that after the breakup, we first go through a stage of denial of the new situation, in which we don’t feel any emotional reaction to the breakup because we don’t just treat it – like something real.
Later on, a phase of anger can result from frustration, in which anger and guilt can appear towards oneself or towards the other person, or even lead to the rest of the person, the world even if this has not happened. nothing to do with the situation.
There may be a phase of negotiation, of looking for alternatives on the mental level, of thinking about what could have changed the situation so that the rupture does not occur or of attempts to recover the person.
Then would come the depressive phase, which would be the population most commonly considered as “breaking depression”: in this phase, we can feel sadness, a lack of desire to do things, fatigue and apathy, thoughts of ruminants on the other person, trouble sleeping or lack of appetite.
finally the last phase would be that of acceptance: In her little by little she ends up processing and accepting that we will have to live our lives without the other person being in her as a couple. Over time, the pain of the breakup disappears and with it the energies are recovered and the duel is overcome.
it is convenient let some time pass before seeing our ex-partner again, So that we can separate what that person means to us (if the breakup was positive, it is possible to maintain a certain relationship and even become friends again, although it is recommended not to attempt this until much).
When does this disorder appear?
Although, as we have said in most cases, we are faced with a regulatory grieving process, typical of losing the type of relationship we had with that person, the truth is that there are times when we can continue to develop true depression. This happens when the grieving process does not simply end, so that the victim fails to reach the acceptance phase and overcome their discomfort.
More precisely, we would speak of reactive or situational depression, or adaptive disorder with depressive features (Although it can also present with anxiety or in a mixed way), in which depressive and / or anxious symptoms are manifested derived from a specific experience that we are not able to overcome and without which the problem cannot be overcome. would not exist.
This alteration generates a great dysfunction in various fields. In fact, the picture could end up becoming a major depression, thus becoming a trigger.
While figuring out an approximate date for overcoming grief is somewhat artificial (we each have our own pace of dealing with things), we may suspect that there is depression caused by breaking up after this event. our mood is sad most of the day, most of the time we have suffered from severe sleep disturbance (Insomnia or excessive sleepiness), slow speech and thought, low self-esteem, and hopelessness for the future.
It is also common to have cognitive distortions that perpetuate discomfort and include an aversive view of oneself, the world and the future, feelings of worthlessness, inability to make decisions or to s ” engage in daily activities, avoidance of discomfort and pain generated by the rupture (Sometimes with extreme or compulsive behaviors, such as compulsive sex or drug use), extreme isolation, and / or thoughts of death and suicide, among others.
While many of these alterations also occur during grief, it will be in depression when they are most extreme, intense, and accentuated. Also, in depression these symptoms do not subside over time but persist, or you can even see how they intensify over time.
What to do? Guidelines for overcoming sadness
Overcoming the pain of rupture has its process and must be respected, but in this development we can incorporate different types of strategies to prevent psychological pain from becoming chronic or that the duel becomes something more serious and even a depression.
Try to enjoy pleasant activities
When we are depressed or even during times of mourning, it is normal that the urge to do things may be reduced. Now even if it costs us we have forcing us to seek rewards and things that motivate us. If necessary, something seemingly as simple as walking around looking for a single positive stimulus or element to remember.
We can also try to explore and discover new activities and places. Just because the other person isn’t in our life doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of it.
Rely on yours and avoid isolating yourself
Another common element when we are sad or depressed is that there is a tendency to isolate ourselves or want to be alone. The truth is that it can also be very harmful perpetuates the feeling of abandonment and loneliness and makes it difficult to overcome the rupture. It makes much more sense to allow ourselves to rely on those around us. It is also important to be able to vent and express our feelings, doubts and fears (however, without doing so constantly or otherwise, it can lead to rejection).
Eat and sleep
Lack of sleep and enough nutrients make recovery much more difficult, both in depression from emotional breakdown and in any other psychological change in mood.
Even if we are not hungry, we should try to force ourselves to eat in a healthy and balanced way. As for sleep, it is recommended try to plan times for sleep and prepare a scene that allows us to relax. The practice of relaxation techniques is also recommended
Value your thoughts, beliefs and demands
When a relationship breaks down, different types of beliefs and thoughts can arise. It is advisable to try to review them objectively, without evaluating them and without judging them. It is also useful examine whether there is another interpretation.
Aspects such as what it means to have a partner, what we demand of others and of ourselves (sometimes we have excessive and unrealistic demands or demands) and what self-image we have are things to analyze.
Does not avoid pain
A common mistake that almost all of us make in this type of situation is trying to avoid the pain we feel, often actively.
While distraction can be helpful at times, the truth is that it’s actually much more effective to allow yourself to experience pain and discomfort in this way. that the situation can come to be dealt with both cognitively and emotionally. It is not, on the other hand, to recreate and rejoice in pain (which would also be detrimental), but to allow suffering to be felt and not denied.
Sport is a very healthy practice, which has also been shown to be useful in combating mental symptoms. A useful strategy would be to try and increase the level of exercise we do, which in the long run generates an increase in endorphins which can help us out of the discomfort.
Go to professional help
Although bereavement does not usually require professional treatment, if it becomes chronic and especially if it develops into depression, it may be necessary. seek help from a psychotherapy specialist.
It may be beneficial to undergo some type of therapy or psychological treatment in which aspects such as self-esteem, engaging in enjoyable activities, or changing cognitive biases and dysfunctional beliefs, among others, are worked on. Sometimes it may also be necessary for a psychiatrist to prescribe some type of antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication, although rather as a support in the process and not as a single treatment in itself.
- Martell, C. et al. (2010). Behavioral activation for depression. The Guilford Press.
- Weissman, M., Markowitz, J. and Klerman, G. (2000). Complete guide to interpersonal psychotherapy. Basic books.